Mrs. Peter Rabbit by Thornton W. Burgess
Chapter IX. An Unpleasant Surprise
Legs are very useful when you want to run away; Long, sharp teeth are splendid if to fight you want to stay; But a far, far greater blessing, whether one may stay or quit, Is a clever, trusty, quick and ever ready wit. Peter Rabbit.
Peter Rabbit sat in a snug hiding-place in the Old Pasture and thought over what he had found out about the strange Rabbit whose tracks he had followed. They had led him to a rubbing or measuring-tree, where the strange Rabbit had placed his mark, and that mark was so high up on the tree that Peter knew the strange Rabbit must be a great deal bigger than himself.
"If he's bigger, of course he is stronger," thought Peter, "and if he is both bigger and stronger, of course it won't be the least bit of use for me to fight him. Then, anyway, I'm too stiff and sore to fight. And then, he has no business to think he owns the Old Pasture, because he doesn't. I have just as much right here as he has. Yes, Sir, I have just as much right in this Old Pasture as he has, and if he thinks he can drive me out he is going to find that he was never more mistaken in his life! I'll show him! Yes, Sir-e-e, I'll show him! I guess my wits are as sharp as his, and I wouldn't wonder if they are a little bit sharper."
Foolish Peter Rabbit! There he was boasting and bragging to himself of what he would do to some one whom he hadn't even seen, all because he had found a sign that told him the Old Pasture, in which he had made up his mind to make his new home, was already the home of some one else. Peter was like a lot of other people; he wasn't fair. No, Sir, he wasn't fair. He let his own desires destroy his sense of fair play. It was all right for him to put up signs in the dear Old Briar-patch and the Green Forest, warning other Rabbits that they must keep away, but it was all wrong for another Rabbit to do the same thing in the Old Pasture. Oh, my, yes! That was quite a different matter! The very thought of it made Peter very, very angry. When he thought of this other Rabbit, it was always as the stranger. That shows just how unfair Peter was, because, you see, Peter himself was really the stranger. It was his first visit to the Old Pasture, while it was very plain that the other had lived there for some time.
But Peter couldn't or wouldn't see that. He had counted so much on having the Old Pasture to himself and doing as he pleased, that he was too upset and disappointed to be fair. If the other Rabbit had been smaller than he--well, that might have made a difference. The truth is, Peter was just a wee bit afraid. And perhaps it was that wee bit of fear that made him unfair and unjust. Anyway, the longer he sat and thought about it, the angrier he grew, and the more he bragged and boasted to himself about what he would do.
"I'll just keep out of sight until my wounds are healed, and then we'll see who owns the Old Pasture!" thought Peter.
No sooner had this thought popped into his head than he received a surprise, such an unpleasant surprise! It was three heavy thumps right behind him. Peter knew what that meant. Of course he knew. It meant that he must run or fight. It meant that he had been so busy thinking about how smart he was going to be that he had forgotten to cover his own tracks, and so the maker of the big tracks he had followed had found him out.
Thump! Thump! Thump! There it was again. Peter knew by the sound that it was of no use to stay and fight, especially when he was so sore and stiff. There was nothing to do but run away. He simply had to. And that is just what he did do, while his eyes were filled with tears of rage and bitterness.